Socratic Instruction MethodThis is the second article we've written about the Socratic Method.  Check out our first article, How to Teach with Questions - Exploring the Socratic Method.

Using the questioning model of the Socratic Method in your classroom is one of the best ways to challenge your students’ critical thinking. However, this teaching technique does not always come naturally. It should be practiced and thought through carefully before leading a training session. You should be aware of the four different types of questions, and how to use them most effectively.

Four Important Types of Questions

Launching Questions

These are your open ended questions, the primer to get the discussion going. They are also used if the conversation lags. Ask your students:

  • What do you think of this topic?
  • What is your opinion on this subject?
  • How do you think this problem should be solved? What would be another way of looking at this? What else? What then?

Hearing students’ thoughts and opinions on the issue will not only begin the conversation, it will also validate their role as participants.

Clarifying Questions

Ask clarifying questions to continue the discussion and help the speaker dig deeper with what they are communicating. These also serve to guide the conversation back on track if necessary. Examples of these questions are:

  • What did you mean by that?
  • Would you explain that again?
  • How does this relate to our topic?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses to this argument?
  • Would you explain why this is necessary?
  • What would be an example?

Summarising Questions

Asking your students to summarise their thoughts is key, especially if the discussion gets off on a tangent or if a person brings up important points that you would like repeated. Having a student summarise their thoughts in a concise way not only clarifies their viewpoints but it also helps the other listeners understand more fully. Summarising questions can be simple:

  • Will you summarise that point?
  • Say that part again please.
  • What is your point?
  • What I’m hearing you say is...

Application Questions

The application part of any class is the most crucial. Having a wonderful discussion without application is not productive. You must guide the conversation around to application because most likely it will not happen naturally. To do that, ask questions like:

  • How can we apply this to our jobs?
  • How does this affect how we work?
  • Using what we have discussed, how do we improve this situation?
  • Where do we go from here?
  • Why do you think I asked you this question?
  • What is next?

Conclusion

Remember, this teaching style does not always come naturally for everyone. It should be practiced and thought through before leading a discussion in this manner. Be prepared and take a thorough list of questions to refer to during your class.